Chapter 2 - The Link Connecting Them
CHAPTER 2 - THE LINK CONNECTING THEM
Tuesday. Miraculously, I made it to school on time, but just as I was taking my books from the locker ...
That lovely voice called. I turned around to see Kyle smiling at me, leaning on a locker beside mine. Wow, one day and I go from nonexistent on his radar to "Nat". Had I known, I would have tried to talk to him much before ... most probably would have never had the guts, but you know ... a girl can dream ...
I mumbled, closing my locker.
"How you doing?"
He asked me.
"F-fine ... you?"
"Oh, fine, but got a week of detention for the fight with that jerk ..."
He told me, annoyed.
"Oh ... uh ... sorry about that ..."
I tried to say and he half smiled.
"No problem. Also because he got worse."
"Yeah, he's got detention too, different periods from mine, and is forced to clean the courtyard."
He said with a victorious smirk I'm not too sure I like. I just nodded, not knowing what to say.
"So, the thing is, Mrs. Porter said we have to continue the project anyway."
He told me. I frowned.
"How are we supposed to do that if you guys can't be together without starting a war?"
I couldn't help but ask and he chuckled.
"That's where you come in, Nat."
"Yeah, you. You'll be the link that connects us."
I blinked my eyes, confused, and he chuckled.
"We're supposed to work on that project anyway, and since we can't stand each other's guts ... you're gonna work with me and him separately and then put the thing together."
He explained. I was still confused.
"When it comes to that, we can just all work on our own and then we ..."
"It's a story, we need it fluent and coherent."
I pursed my lips.
"I highly doubt Eric's going to be willing to cooperate ..."
"Maybe for a hottie like you he'll change his mind."
He said, winking at me and nearly causing me a double, no, triple heart attack. The doorbell rang so I had no time to reply since he disappeared in a minute. He was kidding, Nat, just kidding. But that's the second time he implies I'm pretty ... nah, it's a joke. Surely a joke. Those like Kyle don't even look at those like me. I bet whatever you want that he'll go back to ignore me once we've finished this project. Actually I don't know why did the boys enroll for this class, I mean, I know why I did, I love writing and would love to become writer or journalist one day, but Eric doesn't look like the pouring my heart out on paper kind, actually I'm pretty sure he never ever pours his heart out to someone, keeps it all inside, just like I do ... Kyle instead, he's a sportsman, I don't think he goes for the writing thing. But maybe they've just taken it because it's quite an easy course so they'll pass without problems, well, they think they will ... they don't know how strict Mrs. Porter can be. I've already had this course with her, so I know how she is. Anyway, I walked to my British Literature class, actually quite happily, because hey, even if in such a complicated predicament, my crush has finally noticed me! Ok, he had no choice, but still ... and he thinks I'm pretty! Ok, maybe he doesn't, was just playing around, but still ... the words beauty and hottie rolled off his tongue directed at me! That's a huge start, isn't it? I'm not exactly a Victoria Secret's model, I mean, I do have my soft love handles and maybe I should seriously think to get on a diet, but I'm not fat. Even our general practitioner, to whom my mother brings me often enough to seem paranoid, says I'm healthy and overall average, would just need to drop a few pounds, but it's not totally necessary. He sums it up in curvy. Yes, that's what he says and what I've come to believe myself. I'm just curvy, which is not bad at all. Plus, I like eating, I'm an awful cook, but I like eating. Luckily my mother is one hell of a cook instead. That's maybe one reason why I tend to put on weight every holiday. My father left us when I was just born. Later mom explained me that I wasn't exactly a ... legitimate child, so yeah, he practically ran away when she told him she was pregnant. Oh, well, elements like that, better lose them, right? Mom and I are fine all alone, although she's tried to go on dates but it never worked, which surprised me, because my mother is a beautiful woman, but maybe, no, most probably, she thought of me while seeing those men, I mean, she's tried to date till I was 10, then just stopped. I think it was originally mostly to just find me a father. Now that I'm 18 I don't need a father, kind of miss having one sometimes, but I'm just fine with it. Anyhow, unlike most of my peers, I actually listened to every single word Miss Casey said. I just love British Literature, like love, true love. The rest of my morning went smooth, till lunch ... as I walked down the hall towards the cafeteria, I couldn't help but notice Eric in front of his locker, well, I suppose it was his. He was alone, so there it was, the right moment to talk about the project. Gathering up all my courage, I went to him. He was giving me his back, since by the time I was there he was about to leave, I swallowed and tried to make my heart stop hammering in my chest and finally at least call him.
"What do you want?"
He asked harshly, without even turning around, the muscles on his back tightening, like he had simply felt my presence. Is he a vampire or what? I swallowed again, taking a deep breath.
"W-we need to talk about the project ..."
I mumbled, eyes on the floor, but I could feel he turned around since his gaze bore into me, practically making a whole in my head.
He asked. Oh, great, he doesn't even remember my face. It's not too bad actually if I'm on his black list.
"C-creative writing. T-the fairy tale."
I mumbled in response, eyes still on the floor.
"I'm not gonna work with that idiot."
He spat. Something inside me wanted to snap at him, defend Kyle, but then I remembered we were alone in the hall, so Mr. Bad Boy could murder me without witnesses. Better not provoke him, right?
"Y-you're not going to ..."
I mumbled, my eyes admiring every single detail of the floor, as I was torturing my hands, like I do when I'm nervous, till Eric raised my chin to make me look into his beautiful but icy blue eyes.
"Do I need to spill every single word out of you?"
He asked in a tone that to me sounded menacing. He wouldn't hit a girl, would he?
"I-I ... we ... it's ..."
I took a deep breath and he left my chin.
"A-acocrding to Kyle you two are gonna work separately with me."
He arched an eyebrow.
He repeated, strangely curious. I nodded.
"I-I'll be the ... link between you guys.""
I mumbled in response, but worried when I noticed an odd smirk on his lips.
"The link between us?"
He repeated and I nodded again.
"W-we ... y-you and I will work alone and ... so will Kyle and I. T-then I'll put everything together."
I said, aware that by now he most probably thought I stammered by nature. Eric pursed his lips.
"I-I won't do your work for you."
I muttered, unable to retain myself. He smirked.
"You sure about that?"
He kept gazing at me smugly, the annoying kind of smugly, but still ... damn, he's hot! My cheeks enflamed and I lowered my glance to conceal it. Finally he spoke:
"Fine. Today after school."
He ordered. Now, how do I tell him no without provoking his easily inflammable character?
"I-I can't ..."
I mumbled. He raised an eyebrow at me.
"I-I work ... at the café nearby ..."
I explained. He rolled his eyes.
"D-didn't you have detention?"
I couldn't help but ask as he pursed his lips, I guess thinking of a right time to work on our project. His cold blue eyes snapped to me, making me feel as tiny as an ant. When we were children Eric and I never talked, but he went to my school so I did see him around, even if he never noticed me, and by then he looked like a really adorable boy, with his blonde hair kind of obscuring his sight and dreamy blue eyes. I wonder what happened in his life to make him go from adorable school boy to dreaded bad boy, how did his beautiful eyes go from dreamy to icy?
"Afternoon's his time. I've got morning."
He replied, actually surprising me, because I expected him to just tell me it was none of my business, well, in a much ruder way actually.
"So you're free all the afternoons?"
I asked. He gazed at me curiously.
"I-I mean ... so we can arrange a date ... I mean, appointment, for the project ..."
He smirked at my uneasiness and I sighed. My stomach grumbled, just to add the cherry on top of my uneasiness, and Eric laughed, actually an odd laugh, boyish but also sexy and deep, not evil like always.
" I-I haven't eaten yet ..."
I muttered, trying to relax so that my cheeks wouldn't get enflamed.
"Well, then hurry up. Cafeteria's gonna close soon."
I couldn't help but smile at his comment, feeling, just for a moment, that maybe there still was something of that lovely blonde boy left in him, maybe Eric wasn't totally bad.
" Alright, I'll meet you at the café you work at, then."
He proposed, well, ordered, voice back to stern. Meanwhile people were starting to come out of the cafeteria, clear sign that the lunch break was almost over. I glanced at my watch: I had like 15 minutes to get to the cafeteria if I didn't want to hear my stomach grumbling till the end of the school day, and really I didn't, not because I was hungry, but because it'd be really embarrassing and the last thing I want is to embarrass myself in front of the whole class, I mean, I did that once, when I was in middle school and it was really traumatic and ... Eric snapped his fingers in front of me, a mere inch from my eyes to be precise, taking me off of my thoughts. I shook my head.
"You heard me?"
He asked. I nodded.
"Good. Then be on time."
He concluded and walked away. There I realized I didn't know what he meant.
"Wait ... Eric?"
I called, unsure. Pretty much everybody in the hall turned to me. You could say nobody ever calls Eric Rivers like that, when he goes, he goes, not even a teacher dares to stop him. Melodramatic, I know. Even if clearly annoyed, he turned around, looking at me expectantly.
"W-where do we meet?"
I mumbled, eyes on the floor. I heard people murmuring and I realized why when that beautiful (note the sarcasm) piece of black and white with square pattern tile was covered by a pair of blue snickers. Oh, Eric was in front of me again, dangerously close. Guess that's why people were murmuring. Did they think he was gonna beat up a girl?
" I don't like repeating myself, Watson."
He reproached me. I swallowed, suddenly feeling like a five-years-old unable to do anything but take the reproach. It's absurd, one moment he makes you think he's not totally bad, the other he scares the living shit out of me by barking so harshly ... ok, he didn't really bark, but his tone was harsh nevertheless.
"I-I'm sorry ... I was ... distracted ..."
I mumbled, eyes still on the floor, unable to even look at him. I half closed them, waiting for the whatever punishment he was to inflict on me, even if I knew I really did nothing wrong, just spaced out while he was talking to me, but then, you've got Mr. Short Temper in front of you and ... oh, stop thinking, Natalie, if you miss his words again he's gonna be more than pissed! Eric sighed heavily and I couldn't help but think "goodbye, cruel world, it was nice to wander around for a while, even if invisible ..."
Eric barked, so loudly that he, first, nearly burst my eardrums, second, startled the few kids in the hall. Seriously, I bet whatever you want that they were sure this would be my last day on Earth.
I responded, pressing my eyelids, so much I was keeping my eyes closed. My hands were clasped together at the end of my waist. Really I looked like one of those orphans getting reproached by the evil teacher. Like, you know, Matilda with Miss Trunchbull.
"For fuck's sakes, you've got the attention span of a worm."
Eric rebuked me, kind of exasperated.
"I said be in front of my car when school ends. We're gonna work at the café."
He stated. Oh, finally I caught what he said. Wait, his car? The café? Oh, no ... no, no, no ... the café where I work part-time is like 30 minutes far from the school! I can't stand such a long ride alone with him! Oh, wait, but it's 30 minutes by foot, maybe by car is shorter ... if Jamie was here, she'd say I'm a drama queen. Jamie, my best friend, was my opposite in everything. I still talk to her, via Facebook or whatever, but not like we did before, since she moved much far and it's quite complicated. Not the right time to think of her, though ... I watched as Eric walked away in all his frightening glory and right then the bell rang. Great. I've missed lunch and I'm starving. How can I get through these last hours?